Breast Cancer Action Opposes Nomination of Dr. Robert Califf as FDA Commissioner

Below is the letter we sent all the members of the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee regarding the nomination of Dr. Robert Califf as the next Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Breast Cancer Action is opposed to the nomination of Dr. Robert Califf as the next Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Breast Cancer Action (BCAction) is a national education and activist organization working to achieve health justice for all women at risk of and living with breast cancer. Since our founding 25 years ago, we work to ensure that women have access to evidence based information about breast cancer, free of industry influence. BCAction has over 60,000 members across the U.S.

We have deep concerns about Dr. Califf’s strong ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Recent financial disclosures show that his salary at Duke was underwritten partly by funding from large drug makers such as Eli Lilly, Novartis and Merck. In addition he received research grants or contracts from companies including Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Janssen Research & Development, that also partially supported his university salary.

Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, has noted that “…no FDA commissioner has had such close financial relationships with industries regulated by the agency prior to being appointed.” Although highly esteemed in the medical world, these, and other, close ties to industry poise a credible conflict of interest that corrodes our confidence that Dr. Califf can be fully committed to the FDA’s mission to “protect the public health.”

One example of concern is the current 21st Century Cures legislation (HR 6) which proponents say will help bring new medical technologies and treatments to the marketplace. But the truth is that this industry-friendly bill is a give-away to Pharma and Biotech that would reduce standards of safety and efficacy necessary to protect patients. How can the public put their trust in someone who has been supported by Pharma? He has already spoken about the barriers of regulation, but not about the protection of patients.

Patients and consumers depend on the FDA to ensure that medical drugs and devices are safe and effective.  Can an FDA Commissioner with these close industry ties provide oversight to an agency that the public depends on to put their health over industry profits? We are concerned and believe a better candidate can be found. Too much depends on this appointment. We expect the FDA to fulfill its mission to protect the public’s health. On behalf of women living with and at risk for breast cancer we urge you to reject Dr. Robert Califf’s nomination.


Karuna Jaggar
Executive Director, Breast Cancer Action

This entry was posted in BCA News.